The charter boat bumps and glides along the silvery path of moonlight in the inky black ocean. Quiet conversation and some not so quiet conversation and ringing laughter fills the air. Forest holds me close as anticipation rises in our hearts.
“Forest and I are going to a marriage retreat” I tell my RMT earlier on Friday afternoon. “A marriage retreat… what does that look like?” She asks as her strong yet gentle fingers knead the cantankerous knots in my neck and back.
“Well, there is a speaker and time to relax and eat good food..” I take a deep happy breath as my muscle fibres become as smooth and soft as butter.
“Wait a minute.” The expert fingers pause.
“Aren’t those things for couples in trouble?”
I wasn’t surprised by her comment. Any time I mention counselling,for me or for others, eyebrows go up and eyes fill with concern. “Are you/are they in trouble?”
Isn’t it interesting that when Forest attends numerous professional development workshops, and strategic planning meetings no one asks if his career is in trouble. Quite the contrary.
So to ease any concerns this blog may have raised for you so far, my marriage is not on the rocks…. but it is on a rock.
Let’s take a minute to visit a site at the New Westminster quay.
The future home of My in-laws. A glass tower will ascend from the river to the sky.. or at least a few dozen stories in that direction.
Last summer, or actually two summers ago now, we walked around the big gaping hole in the ground. My mother-in-law shakes her head as she looks at the construction. “So slow in Canada,” she sighs, “China so fast.” “Two years” I told her “it will come soon.” Two years as stretched to three years with the now promised completion date of 2019.
I could venture into a comparison of Canadian and Chinese construction codes and number of available workers but that’s not necessary. The building delay is largely because this lovely blue thing. The Fraser river.
The summer of 2016 was filled with loud banging noises heard all over the city. They started every morning adding a rhythmic commotion to the usually quiet streets.
I wish I had a photo of the massive drill that dug way way down into the river bed. My little niece Callie loved watching its huge iron arm. Patient relentless power. Bang! Bang! Bang!
It became a part of my summer day rhythm. I thought about the workers entering their construction site as I entered my kitchen. Sun is up, time to work. Sometimes my head would ache and pound and I longed for silence and solace.
“Bang! Bang!” Callie cried.
“That’s right, they’re building Grandpa and Grandma Li’s house.”
Then one day the pounding stopped and an iron skeleton appeared in the very deep hole. They had hit the rock. The foundation could now be laid.
Back to Barnabas where another foundation is being laid…
It is now early Sunday morning. A fire is crackling in the wood stove and my heart and eyes are full with beloved ocean views of Howe Sound. Barnabas Family Ministries has been in my family for several years now. The first time I stepped into the beautiful land was around September or October 1997. My dad had landed a cooking contract and we were all welcome to come along. My dad had cooked at many camps before and since then. I was accustomed to rustic cabins and aging dining halls not luxurious hotel-type rooms and a fancy dining room. Barnabas wasn’t a camp in my definition, it was a resort. The kitchen is in a little portable but that will soon be upgraded as well. As a 12/13 year old helping my dad cook for a marriage retreat, I had a dream of one day being a guest at Barnabas with my husband.
Someone pinch me..
Forest is sleeping in hopefully for as long as possible. Last night, after watching this hilarious video (nail in head) we had the assignment to listen to each other for at least 20 minutes as we share concerns on heart about anything. The listeners were not allowed to give advice or problem solve and distract themselves. Their job was to paraphrase and acknowledge.
Ie. “My dad is sending me all these emails and I don’t know what he’s trying to say.” The speaker said. “That sounds hard and confusing,” her husband replied.
“Go and do likewise” they instructed us.
“Wait a minute!” A husband called out from the crowd. “I can’t pull that stuff on my wife. It sounds too fake. She’ll just ask me what I really think.”
“It does sound fake and can feel fake.” The speaker replied, “it’s like a professional basketball play practicing dribbling. It seems unnecessary. Just trust us and try. Be gentle with each other. Make it your own and trust the process. Create a safe place to be vulnerable before you give advice.”
Forest and I looked at each other. We are both pretty good problem solvers and it’s easy to wear that hat and give each other lots of advice. I remember a similar listening exercise in nursing school and it did feel weird and fake and unnecessary. “What I hear you saying is..” I wore a sweet smile but inside I was rolling my eyes and wanting to just talk normally.
Whatever the corny cheez, sharing my heart for 20 minutes with my spouse’s undivided attention in a beautiful setting… sounded pretty luxurious. And it was effective.
I slept well last night. Forest didn’t solve my concerns. But he listened and his quiet affirmations and thoughtful reflections were kind of like the massage therapist’s fingers kneading out anxious cranky knots.
Like the construction drill pounding through wet shifting sands searching for the solid rock.
The solid rock of “I love you.” “We’re in this together.” “Let’s trust our Creator and keep asking Him for help.” “Lord, I need You.” We sang as my fingers swept over the aging keys of a baby grand.
When it was my turn to listen to my husband I discovered how similar our hopes and worries and fears are. Troublesome assumptions can vanish when we create safe places for honesty and vulnerability.
“Therefore” Jesus said, “everyone who hears these words of mine [do not worry, do not condemn, love mercy, speak life ask me, seek me, etc..] and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rains came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27).
Forest and I have audacious dreams and hopes for our life together. I am so grateful for this weekend of drilling and practicing basic skills so that we will be ready when the storms rage and blow.
Because there will certainly be storms.
Marriage is hard and beautiful. I want all the help and professional development that I can get.
When I sit in that glass tower at the New West quay and look through rain drops at the Fraser River I will say “Thank God that we are on the rock.”
Interested in your own Barnabas bonus? Family camps and more… barnabasfm.org